Reaching Breaking Point

FNZ-Antonio de Pacis Profile Image-SmallEDITOR’S NOTE: Being an election year, the Filipinos in New Zealand Group takes a strong interest in following the debate of political parties and their running candidates for the limited num ber of seats in Parliament. So far, while all this scrambling and elbowing is going on in the narrow racetrack, what we’ve noticed in their campaigns are that embattled candidates trying to shirk off their problems with smiles and jokes, rather than addressing legitimate issues and questions. As it is, this will obviously rub a lot of people the wrong way just as it did in the previous national election when a little over 800-thousand people just didn’t bother to vote.

 

“New Zealanders don’t ask for much: someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for. Family, friends, housing, jobs and a future. They want honesty and genuineness from their representatives, not the spin, evasiveness and secrecy that dominates headlines.”

Norman Kirk

29th Prime Minister of New Zealand

(From 1972 until his sudden death in 1974)

 

Even when watching popular TV shows like New Zealand’s Got Talent, X Factor, and American Idol, the public sees through all the flashy glimmer and bling, the scripted answers to questions and even forgives honest mistakes. They don’t vote for the most glamorous or savviest smoothest contestant. What they look for are candidates who are genuine and sincere. Almost always the most talented contestants win on the night.

 

In a democracy, elections are important milestones in the political life of a nation and when politicians bombard us daily with obscure policy announcements, glamorous photo ops, soft background stories with partners, toddlers, puppies and disabled indivi duals, what this tells the public is that the real big issues such as income inequality, rising prices for housing (and everything else) and a disconnect between national and local governing bodies among others aren’t being addressed. In a nutshell, ordinary New Zealanders like us only need to raise one question which summarises all the ills we face daily: Has the quality of our everyday life improved or not?

 

Once again we thank one of the better and brighter minds we have on board Karl Quirino for his contribution of new ideas and observations about the ‘bigger picture’ for a socio-economic and political framework that could radically transform a small country with a small population situated at the edge of the western Pacific into a 21st Century powerhouse global player. It’s a serious write for serious readers.

 

Antonio de Pacis

Chair-Editorial Board

Filipinos in New Zealand Group

 

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INFRASTRUCTURE IS BASIC TO THE FUNCTIONING OF OUR SOCIETY: Climate change is a long-term challenge but one that requires urgent action, not tomorrow but today and right now, given the pace and the scale by which greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere and the rising risks of a more than 2-degree Celsius temperature rise. The challenge has become more daunting, but simulta neously the solutions are also becoming more apparent except perhaps in the area of infrastructure development especially for countries that have major cities hugging their coastlines. Sea levels will rise this century. It is no longer a scenario but an eventuality and there is a need for us here in New Zealand to grasp the consequen ces of this reality across our society in mutually reinforcing ways by our govern ment at all levels, by corporations, by civil society and by individuals because the quality of life moving forward will radically change. Video Production Credits: copyright@McKinsey&Company, All Rights Reserved.

 

TURBOCHARGING NEW ZEALAND

 

What makes a liveable city and why is that so important for you?

 

For one, it is becoming a pressing question because by 2030, 5-billion people or 60% of the world’s population then, will live in cities, compared with 3.6-billion today, turbocharging the world’s economic growth.

 

National leaders and local authorities in both developed and developing coun tries must cope with urbanization on an unprecedented scale as they wrestle with aging infrastructures and stretched budgets. All are struggling to secure or maintain the competitiveness of their cities and the livelihoods of the people who live in them. And all are aware of the environmental legacy they will leave if they fail to find more sustainable, affordable, resource-efficient ways of man aging these cities.

 

A city’s performance has to be measured in a way that reflects all of these con cerns – the strength of the economy, social conditions, and the environment.

 

ALL-Making Liveable Cities Work-Key Criteria Image

 

ACHIEVING SMART GROWTH

 

Smart growth identifies and nurtures the very best opportunities for growth, plans ways to cope with its demands, integrates environmental thinking, and ensures that all citizens enjoy a city’s prosperity.

 

Exceptional leaders of local authorities also think about regional growth because as a metropolis expands, they will need the cooperation of surrounding munici palities and regional service providers. Integrating the environment into econo mic decision-making also vital to smart growth: cities must invest in appropriate and adequate infrastructure and efficient support systems that reduce emissions, waste production, and water use, but more importantly, build on the basis of achieving an overall look and feeling that produces vibrant and charming archi tectural character across through all their high-density communities.

 

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-San Francisco Skyline Image

 

Whatever their starting positions, cities can and do change. Singapore’s rise from a dingy colonial harbor to a sparkling world-class city in just a few decades; San Francisco’s rebuild and reconstruction efforts after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earth quake that caused severe damage in some very specific locations in the San Fran cisco Bay Area and one which restored and even improved its unique charm and character; and, New York’s stunning turnaround from the economic decline of the late 1960s and ’70s, are just three examples.

 

For the most part, local city leaders and authorities want their local economies to grow. Economic growth, however, does not automatically deliver a better quality of life for citizens. It can often harm the environment particularly when no thought is ingrained for planning how their cities should grow, look and feel like decades later.

 

Over and over again, residents of cities with growing populations around the world have discovered to their dismay and discomfort that they have to pay for wasteful projects, shoddy constructions and expensive remedial action to fix problems caused largely by clueless city planners who lack the discipline to avoid unplanned growth itself. It is better then not to assume that all growth is good, but to learn what smart growth looks like.

 

ALL-Making Liveable Cities Work-Paris City Image

 

Take the case of the City of Paris (France). It boasts of having one of the largest GDPs in the world but is considered one of the cleanest and most charming. Paris is a beautiful and romantic city that oozes with art, culture and fine living. As a result of its high concentration of national and international political, cultural and scientific institutions it is one of the world’s leading tourist destinations in Europe.

 

Despite all the pressures it faces as a burgeoning ultra-modern city with a popu lation of 11-million including its unité urbaine (surrounding suburbs), the archi tecture in Paris has been constrained by laws related to the height and shape of buildings at least since the 17th century, to the point that alignement and (often uniformity of height) of buildings is a characteristic and recognisable trait of Paris streets in spite of the evolution of architectural styles over the years That’s smart.

 

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POLITICAL MONUMENTALISM HAS NO ROLE IN PEOPLE’S LIVES: Located in the middle of Barry Curtis Park and at its entrance, the fairly new stunningly-designed but expensive Ormiston Road bridge that provides a monumental entry to Flat Bush’s equally monumental 1,700 hectare Ormiston Town Centre Project now being developed jointly by Auckland Council and the Todd Property Group is being criticized by some quarters as having a location access flaw even as its master plan calls for making public transport easier to use.

 

What’s the flaw? The critics have pointed out that the logical place to have located the yet-to-be built town centre was right around the intersection of Ormiston Road with either Chapel Road or Te Irirangi Drive, with high frequency public transport along either of those routes providing a fast connection with Botany in the north and Manukau in the south.

 

But instead, those prime locations are given over to school playing fields, a park (which really could have been relocated further east) and low-density housing. This means that public transport servicing of Flat Bush will need to take annoying detours. Critics add that it shows that local authority city development planners still haven’t learned from the mistakes of the last 60-years about developing a city. Meantime, large amounts of money and resources have been already committed and are now pouring in.

 

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-Building Sustainable Futures Image

 

 

BUILDING SUSTAINABLE FUTURES REQUIRE INVESTMENT, NOT DIVEST MENT: The other flaw being pointed out about this Project is that the land where the development sits which is currently owned by Auckland Council, will be sold to Todd Property on a staged basis with the first land transfer anticipated in August 2013. Why is that odd and short-sighted? Well, we understand that Auckland Council derives substantial dividends from assets like Ports of Auckland, Auckland International Airport and other financial assets which could be used to reduce the burden that rate payers are forced to cough up every year.

 

If local government authorities want to build on a grand scale (and it’s not just Auckland Council) it should be with an underlying view and policy that if such projects do create regular revenue streams than a good part of it should go back to relieve the burden carried by rate payers. Video Production Credits: copyright@Mc Kinsey&Company, All Rights Reserved.

 

Smart growth, therefore, depends upon a strategic approach that identifies the very best growth opportunities and nurtures them, planning so the city and its surroundings can cope with the demands growth will place on them, integrating environmental thinking, and ensuring that all citizens enjoy their city’s ambience and prosperity.

 

Different cities have different starting points. But each needs to decide which sectors can best support growth and focus on those. Economic growth is likely to be stronger if clusters of companies from a sector or sectors develop together. Their physical proximity to one another will lower supply costs, improve R&D collaboration, and assist the building of an appropriately skilled workforce, among other benefits.

 

 

Funding Infrastructure Projects Requires Much Thought

 

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-City Mayors Master Image

 

OUTSIDE OF THE BOX THINKING IS NOW NECESSARY: Auckland Super City Mayor Len Brown, Hamilton City Mayor Julie Hardaker, Wellington City Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Christchurch City Mayor Lianne Dalziel all together have some things in common as heads of their respective city councils. For one, they all have plans for the long-term development and transport needs of their cities. Secondly, they face large funding gaps to accomplish these plans. Next, it would be political suicide if they relied entirely on ratepayers to fund such gaps. Lastly, the ruling party Beehive MPs who’s underlying fiscal policy is to control spending are not about to agree with providing counterpart funding or subsidies to close those gaps anytime soon.

 

So, what alternatives are there left for them? The answer may be in just simply changing mindsets, that is – that business and local governments now beginning to realise that urban development, from new housing and office complexes to trans portation projects, requires collaboration, not conflict, between the private, public and third sectors. So, how can cross-sector partnerships drive sustainable develop ment?

 

Across the world, as the global population booms and consumes even more materials in the next several years, it is clear one stakeholder group cannot confront these challenges alone. While companies struggle to build more resilient supply chains, the public sector has the task of providing a safe infrastructure so businesses can continue to thrive; and civil society must ensure the planet’s resources and people are treated fairly and equitably.

 

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-Public Private Partnerships Image

 

OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES SHOULD EMBRACE THE IDEA OF CIRCULAR ECONOMIES: Companies that will do well in the next 5- to 15-years are the ones who have ‘future proofed’ themselves in a world that will see more extreme weather events and less energy security. These same companies will be in a much more stronger position to design, build and possibly operate the new infrastructure systems that local governments are desperate to provide their citizens that have resulted from a raft of poorly thought out infrastructure investment programmes of the past 20-years.

 

Even to this day, both the private and public sectors have long been guilty of a linear approach towards development and economic growth. A dismissive view of waste, excessive water consumption and environmental degradation are the by-products of all sorts of construction projects. Instead, we need to open our eyes and minds to embracing a circular economy incorporating more private-public partner ship arrangements which are transparent, with a view towards development as an ecosystem and the necessity to instill a smarter use of resources.

 

Here in New Zealand, while city leaders look for ways to promote their own city’s prosperity (Note: the issue of ‘inequality’ has become one of the big issues this election year), what marks the best among them is the strategic manner in which they pursue that goal. Simply offering tax breaks to entice newcomers or deci ding without sufficient analysis that the city’s future lies in the latest nascent industry, be it clean technology or biotechnology for example, is unlikely to have much impact.

 

This is not to suggest that city governments dotted across the North and South islands should get overly involved in business themselves unless it happens to be a strategic investment asset that produces regular streams of dividends. Rather, their leaders’ vision for the city should be coloured by a sound assessment of where the city’s competitive advantages lie, so they can identify potential clus ters of companies and enterprises that lend their hand to power growth. Having done that, the cities in question must then support growth by making targeted investments and offering a “client service” to businesses to help them flourish.

 

Top-down planning alone by a remote regional or metropolitan authority, can not hope to address local concerns adequately, while a bottom-up approach led by smaller bodies risks unnecessary duplication and overlap, particularly in transportation and utility services. Smart growth therefore ensures a planning process that combines the two, and good planners who are adept at managing the process that enables it.

 

Today’s mobility of people and capital has created fierce competition among cities. We’re competing for the best ideas and the most capable workforces. To thrive economically, we must create a setting where talented entrepreneurs and the businesses they grow want to be.

 

To achieve that, cities must attract companies and organisations to their chosen clusters by holding regular conversations with industry leaders; forging connec tions between businesses, investors, and talent; and organising road shows and conferences. For starters, mayors of the largest cities in New Zealand can play a proactive and leading role, using their convening power and connections and head trade delegations that travel to target neighboring regions in the Asia-Paci fic Basin.

 

DOING MORE WITH LESS

 

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EMPLOYING BUSINESS AND INVESTOR BALANCE SHEETS TO SUPPORT A CITY’S GROWTH: The future of regulation should inspire collaboration and effi ciency, not confrontation and complexity, as all stakeholder groups will need to rely on each other as we struggle to maintain a built environment within a wider eco system for a world expecting to hit 9-billion people by 2050.

 

A complete rethink is necessary if society is to sustain an increasingly urbanised population in the coming decades. Companies and governments now realise that urban development – from new housing and office complexes to transportation and other necessary infrastructure projects, requires innovative collaboration, not con flict, between the private, public and third sectors.

 

The spectre of ruinous climate change, energy security issues and potable water scarcity is real and will affect us all. The private sector, government and civil society must now start to come together and work on solutions that mitigate those risks in the communities in which they operate. Video Production Credits: copy right@McKinsey&Company.com, All Rights Reserved.

 

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-Santander Spain Smart City Image

 

Cost-efficient operations are a hallmark of high-performing cities in good times and bad. It is key to prudent budgeting. The elimination of waste and deploy ment of limited resources for maximum impact therefore become priorities at all times.

 

By remaining lean even in good times, New Zealand’s major cities can put their funds aside to cover operating costs when revenues falls short, thus avoiding cuts to core services when the cycle turns and people need the services most.

 

There are a number of ways to improve a city’s cost efficiency. Some of these include: organisational changes that eliminate overlapping roles; embedding a review of processes to eliminate waste to ensure customer service inquiries get routed directly to the right team, cost-efficient IT investments; adopting online reverse auctions with standardized specifications for procurement of such things like facilities services, computer and communications systems, office supplies and vehicles aimed to reduce unit prices; and, outsourcing to lower-cost centers. These examples all save money that can be better deployed elsewhere.

 

Few cities and large towns in New Zealand are awash with financial resources if at all. Their budgets are constantly under pressure and local authorities generally rely only, it clearly seems, on how much further they can eke out more streams of cash from rate payers just like milking cows.

 

Now, if you think your rates bill is already high enough, then it might interest you to know that there is a new drive by Local Government New Zealand to find new ways to raise cash for local councils and authorities on top of existing rates. Some of these “options’ are considered controversial because such schemes would just be another cost that ratepayers would have to absorb in any case. To learn more, watch the TVNZ-produced video by clicking on the image below:

 

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-TVNZ OneNews Higher Rates Video Image

 

Whether it is a national or local election that is being held it is good to remember that the collective power of your votes decide the direction and outcomes of your lives. Make your voice heard.

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THE BREAKING POINT

 

AT THE END OF THEIR ROPES

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-Tax Revolt Image

 

WHEN ENOUGH HAS HAD ENOUGH

 

THEY SIMPLY GOT FED UP!: Have you ever heard about the ‘Tax Revolt’ which occurred in California in the late 1970s? Proposition 13 – or the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation as it was officially named, was an amendment of the Consti tution of California enacted during 1978, by means of the initiative (or referen dum) process. It was approved by California voters and subsequently declared con stitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

 

Proposition 13 decreased property taxes as it did to also restrict annual increases of assessed value of real property to an inflation factor, not to exceed 2% per year. But the most significant portion of the act is the first paragraph, which limited the tax rate to just 1% of the full cash value of a property. It also prohibited reassessment of a new base year value except for in cases of change in ownership or completion of new construction.

 

In addition to decreasing property taxes, the initiative also contained language requiring a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses of California in local elections for local governments wishing to increase special taxes. Proposition 13 received an enormous amount of publicity, not only in California, but throughout the United States.

 

Why were these percentage ‘caps’ so relevant to people? It’s because it insulated the wider majority of fixed-income earners, young families starting out and retirees from the rapacious effects of real estate speculative pressures where the setting of property prices to ever higher and out of reach levels are driven by so-called ‘market forces’ like property developers and foreign buyers. Finally, the people had their say and got their way to boot. That’s democracy.

 

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-Unbalanced Scale Image

 

While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, that can’t be said when it comes to paying your council rates which is just another name and form of tax ation. These days, this revenue-gathering model city councils employ is reaching its breaking point.

 

Why? Well it turns out this revenue-raising funding model is based entirely as it is on property values (i.e., determined on a subjective value of land owned) rather than an income-related taxation model. Many New Zealanders across the land are feeling the painful pinch of this uneven system because they are sitting on houses with increasing property values and a fixed income that doesn’t catch up with it. Now honestly, how fair is that?

 

It is an unfair and unsustainable funding method of local governments across this land. You see, there are more taxpayers than there are people who actually own land yet both groups of people live and work in the same city but the burden of keeping it running is carried only by one of these two groups of people.

 

WIN SUPPORT FOR CHANGE

 

So what underscores the big picture here? The answer is you, the people whose lives are affected by what governments and its leaders do or do not do.

 

For many city leaders vision powers progress and drive endeavours. But no matter how far-sighted the vision, particularly since its personal, its true value rests in the changes people come to see in their lives.

 

Adolph Hitler was a leader who had a mesmerizing vision for his people who fol lowed him blindly with unquestionable loyalty and fervor. But his darker agenda and the impact of all the changes he instituted, we know now quite well enough as history books reveal, were globally catastrophic.

 

Let us just say for now with some degree of certainty that history can repeat itself and that no one great ‘genius’ can lead a whole nation or much less a city to any greater height that delivers real benefits for the greater whole without con sensus affected by any form of propaganda. Rather, common citizens need to step up front themselves and assume the lead by letting their diverse voices be heard loudly and clearly.

 

The leader’s main job is to get their ideas into the system and find smart ways to make things happen but always with the interests and well-being of all citizens in mind. In saying that – and this matter is even more important, leaders have to be transparent and accountable at all times because even when mistakes are made, forgiveness comes more easily even if those mistakes are not forgotten.

 

Leaders cannot afford many mistakes if they are to maintain citizens’ goodwill.

 

FNZ-Reaching Breaking Point-Conflict or Consensus Image

 

FORGING STAKEHOLDER CONSENSUS

 

The key to understanding what drives the “big picture” then is to listen very carefully to what all the neighbourhoods have to say. Only after having done that can a leader piece together a ‘people’s vision’ and make them better understand and fully appreciate that he or she will work tirelessly to make their lives better – not worse.

 

Likewise, by highlighting a commitment to adhere to a regimen of strict budget ary disciplines, crafting well thought-out projects, programmes and activities that realise broader economic growth, social integration and equitable income distribution is most certainly what gets stakeholder consensus moving along up the hill.

 

No change effort is easy, and momentum more often than not attracts opposi tion. That’s part of the process. But building consensus amongst and within a local population and its business community atop a platform of transparency and two-way communication is what should define any leader’s vision. Doing that is fundamentally important for the reputation of a leader who wants to get everyone as much as possible engaged.

 

Wide public backing also improves the likelihood of achieving longer-termed goals. Here in New Zealand, Ministers of Parliament and City Mayors are only too keenly aware that their tenure ends just 3-years before the next elections come up. But if longer-term plans are articulated simply without the gobbledygook or obfuscations and if these gain more popular support through some short-term successes without hurting the pockets of rate payers then such leaders may find it hard to ignore that these developments are what gets them re-elected.

 

Filipinos in Auckland | Reaching Breaking Point

 

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SNAPSHOT: So, is all this talk about economic resurgence just all poppycock? Well, consider this. New Zealand income levels – which used to be higher and above much of Western Europe’s prior to the deep dislocation crisis New Zealand experienced in the 1970s, have never recovered in relative terms.

 

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